The Royals Were Wrong About Adalberto Mondesi

There comes a time when you need to admit your mistakes and move on from them, and that time has now come for the Royals when it comes to Adalberto Mondesi.
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Do you want to know something crazy?

Dating back to his appearance in the 2015 postseason, Adalberto Mondesi is surpassed by only Salvador Perez in experience with the Kansas City Royals. He is currently a longer-tenured member of the club than Whit Merrifield. Despite this, he is still relatively young at only 26 years old. With that said, it's time that the Royals come to a cold and hard realization about their once top-rated prospect.

I recently highlighted how the Royals have a potential logjam that will need to be sorted out soon. At the end of the list, I constructed a batting order where I put Mondesi down as the future cleanup hitter. However, as I look back on that article, I realized that the only reason I put him there was not because of what he had done but because of what I thought he could do.

What Mondesi has been throughout his career is an exciting, yet inconsistent player who can’t stay on the field either due to injuries or for performance reasons. He also strikes out at an alarming rate, doesn’t get on base enough for his elite speed to be a consistent difference-maker and is probably a bit overrated defensively.

So, for a player that will soon be entering his seventh season with the club and has put up those types of results, why would Royals fans and the organization want him as a major part of the core going forward? The quick answer is that they shouldn’t. Instead, what they need to do is realize that Mondesi’s best value to this team is as a trade chip and not as a future cornerstone of the franchise.

The Royals kicked Nicky Lopez back to the obscurity of Omaha before recalling him after Mondesi went down with an injury a few days before this season started. Lopez, since then, has become the surprise of the season for the Royals offensively and has proven more than capable of playing a good enough shortstop to force Mondesi to third when he finally came back to the lineup.

But yet why were there so many calls to give up on Nicky Lopez after only two seasons where he only played in 159 games combined? Simply put, a lack of power. Lopez's batting average and on-base percentage after those two seasons (.228 and .279) are strikingly similar to Mondesi's after his first three partial campaigns as a Royal (.238 and .276).

However, it’s not until you add in their slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging in which you see where the bias could develop.

Lopez: .228/.279/.307/.586 (3 HR, 43 RBI) (594 PA, 92 SO, 36 BB)

Mondesi: .238/.276/.406/.679 (17 HR, 53 RBI) (500 PA, 147 SO, 20 BB)

Clearly, Mondesi’s brand of bad offense was more palatable to watch than Nicky Lopez’s. His power advantage is worth noting, but the totality of these early-career resumes doesn't present nearly as wide of a gap as many believe. It's also worth noting that Mondesi's career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is 4.8, whereas Lopez has amassed 4.0 WAR in this season alone. 

Lopez is the future shortstop for the Royals and the Bobby Witt Jr. hype train is slowing down for no one, which means it’s time for the team to find a trade partner for Mondesi. The trade that I would like to see the Royals make would be a swap with the New York Yankees for Gleyber Torres.

When Torres broke through for the Yankees in 2018 at second base, he was an absolute machine for them. He mashed 24 home runs to go along with 77 RBIs while hitting a respectable .271 finishing third in that year’s Rookie of the Year voting. He put up even better numbers in 2019, picking up his second All-Star nod in the process.

Since then, his offensive and defensive numbers have fallen off and the Yankees' fans, as well as the organization, appear to want him gone. However, I have a feeling this has more to do with his move to SS to accommodate the signing of DJ LeMahieu in 2019 than it does the player himself. If you disagree with this feeling, just ask yourself if it is any less reasonable than your belief that Mondesi will become a better player than he is right now?

The Yankees might be interested in this idea because they currently have no real baserunning threat like Mondesi on their team. The allure of Mondesi being a possible 30 HR and 30 SB performer in Yankee Stadium might be too much to pass up.

The positive for the Royals in this trade is that Torres has a relatively clean bill of health, he’s under team control until 2025 and his offense has been proven that it can play outside of Yankee Stadium. The negatives are the below-average glove and that the Royals would once again be engaging in another reclamation project. However, I believe that a move back to second would help stabilize Torres’ glove to acceptable standards and would help him focus on what he does best, which is mashing the ball.

This leaves the question of what to do with Merrifield, to which there are a few answers — some of which are exciting and others that might be more practical. The practical Royals-esque move would be to put Merrifield in right field and let Kyle Isbel get a proper shot in center field to begin next year.

The more exciting move would be to trade Carlos Santana in the offseason to save $10.5 million, not re-sign Michael A. Taylor (saving $3-4M) and move Merrifield to center field. Then, put No. 2 prospect Nick Pratto at first base and take the combined savings to help sign Nick Castellanos in the offseason if he opts out of his contract with the Reds (which looks very likely at this point).

For the Royals fans that have been looking for an “all-in” offseason move, here it is. The organization's top two prospects get called up, Merrifield gets moved to a premium defensive position, the Royals get a massive upgrade in right field with Castellanos and, at worst, a lateral value trade that sends Mondesi to the Yankees and Torres to the Royals.

It’s time for the Royals to stop being fooled by the possible potential of Mondesi. If they can find a suitor like the Yankees to take him off their hands for a player like Torres, then there should be no hesitation. Whatever Mondesi does the rest of this year will not change my mind because being “Mr. September” means nothing if you’re a big reason why the team doesn't reach October. 

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